John Howard's draft for the proposed preamble to the Constitution during the 1999 referendum for a republic included this line: "The Australian nation is woven together of people from many ancestries and arrivals". Indeed, all the authors of the other drafts sought to include some mention of an Australia made up of people from different cultures and to have that enshrined in the new preamble to the Constitution. On the face of it, this would appear to be evidence for and recognition of a multicultural society. I beg to differ. The term "multiculturalism" is a farce. It hides the fact that a society could never be truly multicultural. A "multicultural" society, as we understand it, is simply one where individuals and their communities have compromised and submitted to the dominant culture. By adapting their way of life to that of the dominant culture, what we have is in fact individuals and communities that have evolved and embraced the "official" culture. In short, this society fails to be truly multicultural. Having said that, the adaptation to another culture might not be so drastic for some cultures. It could possibly involved learning to speak a new language and getting to understand a new culture. For others however, it could mean abandoning a way of life. What is in place in Australia is not the beginning of a multicultural society, it should simply be called a culturally diverse society. I will go on to show the various problems that a society made up of people from different cultures faces and that the challenges to a truly multicultural society are insurmountable by focusing mainly on the Aboriginal and muslim communities.
THE LAW AND THE ABORIGINALS
The common law system handed down to Australia by the British has proved inadequate in dealing with a "multicultural" society. For instance, an Aborigine is "52 times more likely than a white person to be arrested and 20 times more likely to die in prison" in Western Australia. The underlying differences in the way customary indigenous law and Australian law works has caused much problems for the government. What is the solution to this? Should there be a plural system in place such that "white" men are subjected to "white" law, whereas indigenous people are subjected to their own laws? Such a system undermines the values of which the Australian system is founded on. The concept of equality before the law is a cornerstone in the western legal tradition and as such implementing a plural legal system would severely undermine the Australian legal system.
However,there is a need to consider how fair the Australian system is. There is indeed a formal equality, but does that translate to fairness? That does not seem to be the case. "Pay back spearing", considered barbaric, uncivilised and definitely illegal under Australian law, is viewed in a much different light by the Aboriginal community. The idea of imprisoning one according to Australian law is a punishment that many...